Michael Leander - People still make the same email marketing mistakes they did ten years ago

8 min read
Bitrix24 Team
August 25, 2014
Last updated: April 5, 2023
Michael Leander - People still make the same email marketing mistakes they did ten years ago
Michael Leander as a direct marketing pro with over 20 years of experience. He also he is mostly known as a permission based email marketing guru, he is a firm believer in multi-channel promotion and a RoMI (Return on Marketing Investment) advocate. We caught up with Michael to ask him a few questions about email marketing, its past and the future.

What is the biggest email marketing mistake or mistakes that you see companies make every day?

Most of the mistakes email marketers make today are the same mistakes they have been making in the past 10 years. One mistake is to not align their messages (content) with the interests of their audience. More often than not email marketers are focused solely on the message they want to send, not the message recipients want to hear. As a result the interaction and CTR (Click through rates) are low. At the same time the ability to deliver a positive ROMI (Return on Marketing Investment) is highly questionable.

Another mistake is lack of focus and consistency. Succeeding with email marketing requires focus. There are many elements involved and each of these require dedicated focus. Take mobility, for example. The bulk of email marketers are not caring enough about how their messages appear when viewed on a mobility device. Since user habits are changing rapidly, email marketers need to understand how to deliver the best experience across all devices. And this goes far beyond responsive design. It has to do with understanding how we get attention, how we get recipients to react and ultimately convert to action. Not easy to do in a desktop environment. A lot harder to do in the mobility space.

Essentially email marketing should be a regularly occurring conversation. A two way street where senders provide value to recipients one at a time. Understanding that and finding a way to execute on that premise is key to successful email marketing. Add to that the need for a one customer view approach. Consolidating data in a marketing database or CRM is essential. Especially looking at the value of getting behavioural data from email marketing activities structured in a way that enables better targeting seems to be highly relevant. It is a mistake that the one data repository approach seems to be ignored by the majority of marketers.

There have been a lot of changes this past decade – CAN-SPAM act, mass migration of personal communications from email to social networks, meteoric rise of mobile messaging apps and so on. Which email marketing strategies still work despite these changes, and which ones are now obsolete?

In spite of all these changes, I find that the basics of email marketing haven’t changed. Sure there are a few more obstacles, but serious marketers will know how to deal with those effectively. As mentioned, successful email marketing requires a good-to-great value proposition. But it clearly also need to be permission (opt-in) based. Sending email communication without permission is less effective, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying it is obsolete. It may be illegal in many countries, but it apparently still works for some aggressive senders. Sadly.
Providing value with a well designed content concept still works. Getting frequency and timing right still works. It is indeed very much business as usual but with mobility, deliverability and a few other components added to the mix.

How do you see email marketing change during the next 10 years?

I don’t know what will happen 10 years from now. But I wouldn’t be surprised if email marketing is still alive and doing well. Over the coming years I expect significant changes on the ISP side of things. Data privacy and consumer protection is still important and will become even more important in the coming years. ISP’s will continue to seek new ways to protect consumers from unwanted communication. There will be changes in how consumers and business buyers interact with their inbox. And hopefully we will see some new developments that will empower our ability to convert from message to action - especially in the mobility space. I think the audience will become increasingly better at understanding when and where to give permission to receive email communication. Perhaps we will see more brands offer to sign-up for a time limited period. When the time is up, the permission is automatically withdrawn. This form makes sense for many categories. The intersection of notifications on mobility devices and emails will also become smarter allowing consumers to turn off email communication if they prefer notifications on their tablets instead – and vice versa.

Self-restraint is probably one of the most important traits for email marketers. Do you have any tips how to resist the urge to send emails to clients or prospects too frequently?

Frequency is the most misunderstood part of any form of communication. Highly educated people actually believe that there is a right or wrong formula for good frequency. That is of course not so. Frequency is related to relevancy and value. So if a brand is able to be relevant and add value to a given recipient 2 times each day, then that frequency is great. But if you cannot add value and be relevant to your audience then any frequency is wrong. As a highly frequent traveler, I naturally receive a lot of email newsletters from airlines. And in spite of being a Gold or Diamond member with many of them, they still consistently send me irrelevant offers several times each week. They don’t add value to me. In fact it irritates me. Ultimately they damage their reputation one customer at a time.

What resources should email marketers use/read to stay on top of their game?

There are many good resources out there. Generally my advice is to read as much as possible. Watch webinars. Attend seminars and workshops. Dave Chaffey runs SmartInsights (www.smartinsights.com) which is a good resource for marketing Markedu is about to launch a new series of free webinars (www.markedu.com).

Thank you, Mike!

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